Top 10 Videogame Trailers

Roger Ebert, I respect you. I enjoy your musings about the world of film. I think you’re a very intelligent man with an endless, precise wisdom. I’m actually really jealous of you and your writing.

But you don’t know video games, sir. As you’ve stated a bunch of times, you don’t think they’re art. Alright, I can see where you’re coming from, and I can understand if you don’t want to actually play a game instead of relying on preconceived notions. However, I think you should see something before giving a swift “pish posh” and swatting us gamers away.

With the Oscars coming up, many film fans, including myself, are analyzing and discussing the best movies from the past year in preparation for what will most likely be a disappointing awards ceremony. While that’s all well and good, this time of red carpet giddiness and cinematic splurge makes me want to celebrate the aesthetics of video games. After seeing the jarring three-minute masterpiece that is the Dead Island trailer, I realized how much I enjoy videogame trailers. With that in mind, here’s my list of the top 10 best videogame trailers.

Before we get started, I wanted to point out that these trailers were judged from a purely cinematic standpoint. The quality of the actual games has nothing to do with their ranking. This list is about what the trailers offer, not the games.

10. Grand Theft Auto IV

Rockstar has always known how to make great trailers for games. They’re stylistic, humorous and populated with fully-realized characters. Rockstar isn’t melodramatic or overbearing. They just make fun, aggressive trailers. Take GTA IV, for example. Niko Bellic’s ruthless and charismatic personality makes him seem so disjointed. He’ll kill because that’s what needs to be done. He’s a bit greasy, but also justified. Take that character, throw him in with some equally awful gangsters and set it to a grizzly hip-hop track. Trailer gold.

9. Dead Space

It’s a kind of a cliché, but if it’s done right, singing a lullaby with a chilling voice can have disturbing effects. Enter Dead Space. The game knows the mood it’s created and how to exploit it. The trailer does a perfect crescendo that ends with an intercut mess of gore and isolation. Ridley Scott would be proud.

8. Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Most people have heard about the E3 ’04 trailer that literally made men weep, but I prefer this one. It has more depth than the first trailer with the variety of different characters, the Lord of the Rings-inspired sets and fights, and the dramatic shift of Link turning into a wolf. The first trailer was just a sample; this one fleshed it out fully. And the ending zoom on the joust is just simple, grade-A cool.

7. Secret of Evermore

This is probably the least artsy trailer on the list. What I mean is, if this list was all trailers for movies, Secret of Evermore would be an animated kids film. It clearly doesn’t have the highest budget, but for a ’90s ad promoting a video game that wasn’t very popular, I love it. It reminds me of “Mighty Max” or some other Saturday morning cartoon from when I was a kid.

6. Gears of War 2

Maybe I’ve seen “Donnie Darko” one too many times, but I like this over the “Mad World” trailer. They’re both stunning, but the “Mad World” trailer seems to just peter off, where as this one leaves you wondering. It’s crafted so well, with each character solemnly trudging their meat-packed bodies through war. Choosing a song like “How it Ends,” an arguably non-manly theme, makes their grief and the blight around them seem all the more real. They have muscles — engorged, oversized muscles — but they also have hearts, bro. They also have hearts.

5. Halo 3

The trailer for Halo 3, similar to Gears of War 2, is about the reducing effects of war (as seen here in the form of a crying solider). What makes this trailer so brilliant is its literal approach to showing reduction, i.e. using a diorama. However, unlike GOW 2, this trailer aggrandizes war when Master Chief looks right into the camera, followed by one revitalizing word. Aside from being an achievement in model effects, the trailer’s paused reality makes the diorama set feel larger than life.

4. Silent Hill 2

Harrowing is a word that comes to mind when watching the trailer for Silent Hill 2. Before J.J. Abrams gave us motion sickness with thrills, Silent Hill 2 gave us a diluted, personal trailer that uses similar effects. It’s a bit on the long side, but the dreary guitar and the collection of unhinged characters (not talking about the monsters) create a disarming atmosphere. Also, my soul dies a little and writes crappy poetry after hearing the line “I’m not your Mary.”

3. Heavy Rain

It’s haunting, suspenseful and minimalistic. No fancy music or long-winded narratives. A lot of the time, videogame trailers get caught up in their own exposition (Metal Gear Solid 4). This makes them isolating and difficult to sit through. With Heavy Rain, we don’t get any story — we don’t even get a character name — and it is so much more interesting that way. This trailer shows that less is definitely more. Why get bogged down in plot and explanation? Just put a defenseless woman in a seemingly abandoned house and watch the magic unfold.

2. Final Fantasy VIII

Also known as Square’s graduation to the bigger leagues, this was the first in many high-budget trailers from the company. This cinematic landmark showed that games could rival film when it came to production and choreography, a rivalry I believe has since been won by the former. We have love, hate, rage and some unbelievable music. It’s just one of those trailers you sit back and enjoy. Unfortunately, as the years went on, Square’s substance in its games has thinned to the point of transparency, but back in the late ‘90s, fueled by the commercial success of FFVII, they hit one out of the park.

1. BioShock

There are a few movies in this world that I wish I could go back and see again for the first time. I want to experience the huge, shocking moments that have since become legend: Darth Vader telling Luke who his daddy is; Sonny and his tollbooth; Stanly Kubrick experimenting with exorcisms. And after watching the trailer for BioShock again, I want to add it to the list.

The game’s trailer is so raw and powerful. I’ve never seen anything like it.

You are a man with a monkeywrench. You pull a little girl out of a hole in the wall and are ready to kill her. Suddenly, a giant wearing a steam-punk scuba outfit steps in and mercilessly defends the little girl. Oh, and at one point your arm turns into a beehive.

It sounds insane, but this trailer is the definition of enthralling. It’s unlike anything else out there. In 2006, there was the BioShock videogame trailer… and then there was everything else.


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Author: Greg Galiffa View all posts by
Greg Galiffa is an Associate Editor at GamerNode. He's also an apologist for the first TMNT film. You can follow him on Twitter @greggaliffa

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